16 Must-Know Tips When Negotiating with Your Credit Card Company

Ah, a credit card: chances are, you have one. With convenience, simplicity, and the ability to let us buy things we otherwise couldn’t afford, credit cards are the American way of spending. When used properly, this can be great, but when used too often credit cards can lead to one thing: debt.

However, being in credit card debt isn’t the end of the world. Unbeknownst to many people, credit card debt can actually be negotiated.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can call up a company and simply request that they just forget about the 5,000 dollar plasma you just charged. But, you can call and negotiate interest rates, late fees, and payment dates.

To make a successful negotiation call, consider doing the following:

Call at the Best Times: Picking the right time to call a credit card company is the first step in finding someone who will listen. Rather than calling at the end of the day, when people are more likely to be tired, stressed, and focused on getting out of the office,  call in the morning, when people are fresh and ready to help. It’s also a good idea to call on the weekdays: during weekend hours, a supervisor may not be available to speak with you.

Be Polite: Being polite often opens doors that being rude slams shut. Even if you are upset, angry, or ready to rip your credit card - and everyone associated with it - to shreds, restrain yourself. Be nice, be polite, and be patient: help will come, quicker if you’re nice..

Point out Your Loyalty: If you’ve been a customer at a credit card company for many years, or if you’ve charged up your Visa and MasterCard with the frequency of a shopaholic, use this to your advantage. Companies rely on customers to stay in business: in other words, they don’t want to lose you.

Pointing out your loyalty can make a companies’ ears prick up: if you need them to work with you on negotiations, or you need them to remove a delinquency from your credit score, be aggressive with mentioning the amount of business that you’ve done with them. Remind them that they want to keep you…and keep you happy.

Make it Clear that You are Going to Pay them What You Owe: Credit card companies, like any company, will immediately jump on the defensive if they feel you are trying to wiggle out of payment: the negotiating will end then and there. Instead of coming across as someone who is going to leave them high and dry, make it clear that you are willing to pay what you owe, you just need a little sympathy on their part.

If you have extenuating circumstance - if you just lost your job or have been very ill - make them aware of this as well. Companies might be more understanding than you think.

Make first time work in your favor: If this is the first time you’ve ever asked your credit card company for a little leniency, make sure they know this. A credit card company will be much more receptive to “first time offenders” than they will be to someone who calls every month and asks for an extension on their due date.

Mention Competition: If there was a list of things to do to get a company to see your way, at the top would surely be one thing: mention the competition. A credit card company is like any other business, they want to keep you away from their competitors. If they are failing to negotiate with you, or are completely unreceptive to your requests, threaten to cancel your card and go elsewhere. Those words usually won’t fall on deaf ears.

Act Quickly and Be Thorough: When negotiating with your credit card agency being efficient and expedient are essential. Instead of planning to call your company sometime next week or whenever you can find the time, make a point to do it today. Along these lines, be persistent until you are taken seriously. Even if they are putting you off, don’t put off calling them again and again.

It’s also a good idea to document everything. Write down the names of people you speak with and the times and dates you called. Having a record of specifics will speak volumes over simply saying you called sometime last week and talked to “what’s her name.”

Ask for a Supervisor: When all else fails, and you feel as if you are simply talking in circles rather than talking to a person, ask for a supervisor. Supervisors can help you where their subordinates can’t. Asking for a supervisor also conveys the message that you want to be taken seriously. If no one on the bottom will help, take your claim to the top.

Stay Away from Ultimatums: Ultimatums, in anything, are usually not a good idea: they have a pretty low success rate. The reason for this is simple: ultimatums cause emotions, and usually not good ones. Anger and frustration usually follow their utterance. For this reason, don’t give your creditor an ultimatum unless you are going in for the kill and confident they will falter.

Use the B Word: The word “bankruptcy,” when it comes to negotiations, may be your ace in the hole. Creditors certainly don’t want you filing - if you do, they get nothing. You can use this to your advantage. If a creditor isn’t willing to negotiate, mention that you may be filing for bankruptcy (even if you aren’t, say it anyway). The “b” word is one word that will force them to compromise.

Pay with a Lump Sum: Instead of agreeing to pay your creditor a set amount of money every month, agree to pay them a lump sum. This benefits you in two ways. First of all, creditors are more likely to settle for less if you pay it all at once. Secondly, paying off your debt in a lump sum allows you to be free of it sooner. Pay it off and forget about it.

Keep the Upper Hand: Creditors have people who are trained to intimidate you  into paying - they will tell you that they absolutely can’t negotiate or they can’t accept anything less than 1300 on your 1350 dollar bill. Well, don’t believe them. Not only are they lying, but they are also trying to take the upper hand away from you.  If you come across something like this, hang up and call back another day. Don’t let them intimidate you.: you have what they want, and thus, you have the control.

Know Your Strengths: Knowing your strengths, as well as your weaknesses, can help you negotiate more effectively. If you are a woman, for instance, and are uncomfortable negotiating with a man, request to speak to a female. If you are better at negotiating in the morning, call before noon. If you can only successfully negotiate after a cup of coffee, stop off at Starbucks. Knowing when you are at your best negotiating self is key to making sure your negotiation is successful.

Start Small: When you are haggling for a new car, you don’t start big, offering to pay near the asked purchased price. Instead, you start small. Do the same thing with debt negotiating. If you can afford to pay off 1000 dollars, start at four or five hundred and negotiate. You might even end up saving more money than you thought.

Don’t Split the Difference: You start low, your creditor starts high: splitting the difference seems like the logical thing. Well, it actually isn’t. If you tell your creditors you’re willing to pay 500 dollars and they say they are willing to accept 1500, splitting the difference will result in you paying a 1000 bill when, in actuality, you can go a lot lower. Don’t agree to split the difference unless that difference is actually what you want to pay.

When in Doubt, Hang Up: The good thing about negotiating over the phone is that with the simple click of a button, you can walk away. If the negotiating isn’t going well, you are feeling overwhelmed, or you simply are too emotional and frustrated to go on, discontinue the call and take some time to gather your thoughts. You can always call back in a few days; the creditor isn’t going anywhere.

When it comes down to it, most credit card companies will negotiate with you in order to keep your business. They don’t want you upset, they don’t want you unhappy, and they certainly don’t want you leaving. In the event that they simply won’t listen, consider going through a professional debt settlement or a debt management service. These services are filled with professionals who negotiate for a living: they can make credit card companies listen when others can’t.

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